Basis commercially launches wrist-worn, healthy habits device

By: Brian Dolan | Nov 29, 2012        

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Basis 2After at least two years of development, Basis Science has officially launched its wrist-worn fitness and health tracker, Basis, for $199, which includes a free, supporting web-based health behavior change platform. The device is available on the company’s site and will ship in early December. Basis aims to distinguish itself from the ever growing number of activity tracking devices by focusing on behavior change and healthy habits instead of just the technology.

“We have been working fast and furious at getting the product ready,” Basis CEO Jef Holove told MobiHealthNews. “We concluded that being the best little tracker in a community of trackers was not our goal,” he said. “We want to actually help people with their health.”

And at $199 Basis Band is entering the market at a higher pricepoint than most other wearable activity monitoring devices.

“We are coming into this as the BMW of the category,” Holove said. “That is intentional. Our device is more powerful, more sophisticated, and demonstrably so. We offer more science and more insights, plus the device itself is also customizable [since it comes in a variety of colors] and that helps make it good wearable technology, too. It’s good that there are others in this market. It is great that things are starting to take off and proves that there is a market here and that consumers are looking for digital health.”

Basis 3Basis does pack in an impressive group of sensors: The device includes an optical blood flow monitor, a 3-axis accelerometer, a perspiration sensor, plus skin and ambient temperature sensors. Holove said that “the magic here is not just each individual sensor but how they come together” and that even though the device may have more technology onboard than others, which should help it to drive more insights, he believes users should still ask: ‘So what?’

The real comparison should be less about the technology differences and more so about the user experience of Basis vs. the competition. Holove said Basis is the only group truly tackling user behavior with a focus on lasting change for health and “that’s what matters the most.”

Basis offers users more than 10 different “habit cards” that use “baby steps” or little victories to help people form long lasting habits. These steps are meant to be achievable but they get harder as a person progresses through them, Holove said. They are also intended to be things that easily fit into your life as opposed to a workout regimen a fitness magazine might recommend that necessitates going to a gym. Basis combined achievable baby steps with a notion of consistency to encourage users to develop habits to help people fit good habits “into the corners” of their daily lives.

Each habit starts out as a twice-a-week activity and slowly builds. The program automatically adjusts based on the data collected by the Basis device. Progess is also measured on a weekly basis so users get a new start each Monday: “The idea behind this is that we all fall off the wagon and we want to slow down the wagon enough so that it’s easy to get back on,” Holove said.

One of the habits encourages users to get up and move every hour during the work day. If users are consistently failing to achieve the baby steps that the habit cards are suggesting, the system will suggest the user try a different habit out instead.

Basis 1The first iteration of Basis comes with a USB cable that users have to plug into a computer to transfer the device’s data. That also tops off the device’s battery, which can last anywhere from four days to about a week depending on how the device is being used. Since the optical sensor is frequently taking readings, the wearer’s skin tone and hairiness can also effect battery life, Holove said.

While Basis will ship as a Bluetooth-ready device, its wireless connectivity will not be of use until the company finishes developing its mobile app. Holove told MobiHealthNews that the company did not want to hold up the device’s launch to wait for the app to be finished.

Earlier this year Basis was slapped with a patent infringement lawsuit from competitor BodyMedia. While the lawsuit has not yet been settled, Holove said a preliminary finding from the US Patent Office agreed with Basis that one of the BodyMedia patents in question was not valid because of prior art. The preliminary finding is not a final determination, of course.

In March 2011 Basis raised $9 million in a funding round led by Norwest Venture Partners and Doll Capital Management. The company’s advisory board also includes an executive at Facebook as well as the co-founders of RedOctane, co-creators of the Guitar Hero series.

Holove said the Basis device is something that people will want to show off because they are proud to wear it and because it says: “You are doing your part.”

“We think of it like putting out recycling bins in front of your house or driving a Prius,” he said. “We want this device to be a positive symbol.”

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CardioNet offers up cardiac monitoring iPad app for physicians

By: Brian Dolan | Nov 29, 2012        

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CardioNet Access iPadThis week Conshohocken, PA-based wireless cardiac monitoring company CardioNet announced the launch of an iPad app, called CardioNet Access. The app is for physicians who prescribe the company’s mobile cardiac outpatient telemetry (MCOT) system, which helps doctors diagnose and monitor cardiac arrhythmias. The CardioNet Access app offers its physician users “easier accessibility to their patient data” and the ability to save, print, and send patient reports right from their iPad.

As of May 2012 already more than 62 percent of physicians had some form of tablet — though a vast majority used iPads — according to Manhattan Research’s Taking the Pulse survey.

“Starting today, we launched an iPad application which allows health care providers to instantly access cardiac monitoring reports on-line,” CardioNet CEO Joe Capper said in a statement. “We believe that making the most precise mobile cardiac-related information available to physicians at their fingertips, in a user-friendly format, is a powerful tool that will benefit patients, payors and physicians alike.”

The CardioNet Access app is a free download for CardioNet physician users.

Earlier this year CardioNet rolled out MCOTos, the newest iteration of its MCOT offering, and earlier this month the company announced a new product, a wireless-enabled event monitor, called wEvent.

“This new wireless device provides physicians a much improved replacement to their traditional event monitor,” Capper said in a statement at the time. “The wEvent, unlike existing event monitors, offers wireless transmission of symptom and activity reporting, providing a higher level of patient convenience and better quality of information.”

wEvent integrates with the same backend system as the company’s MCOT offering.

HealthTap acquires Avvo’s health business

By: Jonah Comstock | Nov 29, 2012        

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healthtapHealthTap, the doctor question and answer service that has recently been expanding into a care provider directory and referral network, has acquired the health business of Avvo, a Q&A website that connects users to lawyers and doctors, for an undisclosed amount.

HealthTap will add about 13,000 new doctors to its network, bringing its total to more than 30,000 physician users, CEO Ron Gutman told MobiHealthNews in an interview. It’s not just the raw numbers that are exciting, he said, but the way the acquisition diversifies their base of physicians.

“We added more specialties, so it broadens our coverage and our reach,” he said, adding that the move takes them from 115 specialties to 128. “What excites me most is the local aspect of it. We’re gaining a much broader geographic coverage.”

In addition to the network of physician users (which recently added a ranking system to its functionality), HealthTap has a directory of doctors and dentists around the country, as well as a database of which colleagues each doctor refers patients to. Last month, HealthTap launched its DocConnect system, which presents that referral data to patients in map form. The acquisition will bring the total number of doctors and dentists in that directory to 1.2 million, Gutman said.

“We’re in the process right now of matching the referral data we have to all the physicians in the directory,” he said. “A good percentage of them we will be able to match, because we had referral data for more than just the doctors in our network. It’s a very, very extensive directory, so you can imagine it’s a huge data task.” HealthTap estimated the number of network and referral connections at 30 million.

Avvo will continue to provide their legal answers service, which was their initial focus when they launched in 2007. They added their health section in November 2010.

“Avvo’s legal business is booming, and … we’ve decided to focus 100 percent of our attention on expanding our consumer legal services and helping lawyers grow their business,” Mark Britton, founder and CEO of Avvo, said in a statement. “Just as Avvo is the premier destination for people looking for legal advice, HealthTap is the leading source for trusted answers to health questions and peer-reviewed medical professionals, which makes HealthTap the right choice to carry on the conversation between consumers and medical professionals.”

“I think they will continue doing well in legal,” Gutman said of Avvo. “They were excited to sell and it was a quite a competitive deal.”

Gutman told MobiHealthNews that although the client base was a key part of HealthTap’s first acquisition, it’s not the only thing HealthTap is gaining.

“We acquired the entire health section lock, stock, and barrel: the physicians in the network, all the questions and answers, all the data, connections between the doctors,” he said.

FDA clears AFrame’s MobileCare Monitor as Class II device

By: Neil Versel | Nov 28, 2012        

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aframe mobilecareAFrame Digital, a Reston, Va.-based maker of telemonitoring technology, has received 510(k) clearance from the FDA to sell its MobileCare Monitor as a Class II medical device in the US. The company has had less-stringent Class I approval for its flagship monitoring product since 2009.

MobileCare Monitor is a wristwatch-like device that offers continuous, real-time monitoring for seniors, people with chronic diseases and others who might have high health and safety risks. The monitor links by Bluetooth to personal medical devices, measures patient gait, automatically detects falls and offers a panic button for wearers to summon help.

In case of a fall or an abnormal reading, the system sends an alert to designated caregivers via a smartphone or other mobile device. Patients and their caregivers also can view data in real time through a Web-based portal, featuring dashboards and drill-down decision trees.

The monitoring platform is intended to support the Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) model of caring for older adults, according to the company. “Telemonitoring is increasingly important for health providers, accountable care organizations and PACE programs as they transition to performance-based models of payment and patient-centric models of care,” Jill DeGraff Thorpe, AFrame Digital’s VP for strategic initiatives, explains in a press release.

“A benefit of MobileCare Monitor is that it places a virtual safety net under individuals as they go about their daily activities. Not only do they enjoy greater independence and mobility, their formal or informal caregivers do too, including members of their family,” adds AFrame Digital COO Bruce Wilson. “Also, it successfully leverages technology to enable unparalleled personalized support, since caregivers can customize alerts based on each patient’s individual care plan or wellness profile.”

Kvedar to tackle consumer health with Wellocracy

By: Neil Versel | Nov 28, 2012        

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Dr. Joseph Kvedar, Center for Connected HealthA new company from Center for Connected Health (CCH) Director Dr. Joseph Kvedar will take a stab at the difficult task of engaging consumers in their own health by studying the missteps of others and attempting to simplify the processes of education and motivation.

Kvedar and business partners, including self-help author Carol Colman and integrative medicine practitioner – and former personal trainer – Dr. Justin Mager, will formally launch the company, called Wellocracy, at the SilversSummit, part of the massive annual Consumer Electronics Show in January. (Update: Kvedar made clear his intention to stay with the CCH, and his formal position at Wellocracy is still to be determined.) Wellocracy is intended to be “a community dedicated to improving the health of regular folks,” Kvedar says in an online chat with MobiHealthNews.

“We see the barrage of activity monitors coming on the market, and our hypothesis as to why they are not getting more sustainable traction is that they are complicated to use (and the choice of which one to use is also complicated), that they are thin in overlying motivational components and that folks are busy and intimidated about changing their life around to dedicate time to be more active,” Kvedar explains. He says that Wellocracy will “fix all of these things” as well as other problems he expects users to educate the team about.

“The goal of Wellocracy is at once simple and daunting – to get America moving, and to motivate our citizens to move to a healthier state. It turns out that the formula is straightforward: a) track your activity, b) find your individual set of motivational tools and c) find ways to increase your activity without disrupting your life,” Kvedar writes on the Center for Connected Health blog.

The launch will involve the unveiling of the Wellocracy website and publication of the first in a planned series of short, “installment-type” e-books, Kvedar says in the online chat. “We will publish a series of e-books and have a resource-rich, community-based website for people to learn about the power of self-tracking, feedback loops, motivational triggers and integrating healthy activities into their lives in ways that are not disruptive to living,” he explains.

The first book, which could be online before the end of the year as part of a soft launch, will be called “Move to a Great Body,” and will highlight the power of activity tracking to improve health, according to Kvedar. “The books will be linked heavily to the website and the website, in turn, will have lots of both editorial content and user-generated content,” he says.

While Wellocracy will debut at the SilversSummit, the company is not necessarily targeted at older people or at people with chronic diseases. “People will have many different motivations to get more active. Some will want to fit into their tight jeans and some will want to lick Type 2 diabetes – and everything in between,” Kvedar says. “Our goal is to collect them, educate them, motivate them and have them educate/motivate one another.”

He says the relationship between Wellocracy and the Center for Connected Health, part of Harvard-Affiliated Partners HealthCare, is “being worked out.” Kvedar helped to found Healthrageous back in 2009, which also spun out of the Center for Connected Health. That company has just brought Partners back on as an investor.

Ginger.io raises $6.5M, led by Khosla

By: Jonah Comstock | Nov 28, 2012        

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Ginger.ioBehavior monitoring and analytics startup Ginger.io has raised $6.5 million dollars in its first round of funding, led by increasingly frequent digital health investor Khosla Ventures. Existing investors from the company’s $1.7 million seed round in October 2011, True Ventures and Romulus Capital, also contributed.

Ginger.io, which absorbed mobile health startup Pipette earlier this year, offers a mobile-based software platform that passively monitors a person’s mobile phone use: How much they’re texting, calling, answering calls, etc. Although the initial use case the company touted was for clinical research, the focus now is population health management. Ginger.io provides an alert system for behavior changes in individuals with chronic or mental health conditions like diabetes or depression. The software sends data about the trends (though not the monitoring data itself) to doctors and gives them the equivalent of a “check engine light” if, for instance, a patient becomes withdrawn and stops making calls.

“The number of people who realize the value of this data but haven’t had access to it,” CEO and co-founder Anmol Madan told MobiHealthNews, is compelling. “There’s a bit of a difference between how researchers want to use the system and how providers want to use the system for population health management.”

Madan said the investment came at a time when the company has more interest from potential customers than resources to meet the demand. (The company is currently hiring various types of engineers and product managers.)

“We have about a dozen or so institutions that are using our systems today,” Madan said. “We probably have 40 or 50 qualified leads but we don’t have the resources to support them. We’re realizing there’s a lot of interest and a lot of need, but not having the resources to scale up to meet that need.”

In order to develop the analytics platform for use across different diseases, the company needs to do research to develop behavior baselines, which Madan described as “signatures” for each of the conditions it wants to address. Identifying those signatures is one initiative this funding will support.

Ginger.io also depends on patients having smartphones, but Madan said that hasn’t been a problem so far.

“We haven’t had a single customer come back and say ‘I can’t use your system because my patients don’t have smartphones,’ ” he said.

Khosla Investors’ portfolio includes appointment booking app ZocDoc, iPhone ECG developer AliveCor, medical peripheral device maker CellScope, and wearable device makers Misfit Wearables and Jawbone. Founder Vinod Khosla made headlines in August when he proclaimed at the Health Innovation Summit in San Francisco when he said that machines will eventually replace 80 percent of doctors. Madan said that, while they appreciate the disruptive attitude, he doesn’t necessarily agree with that remark.

“It mainly reflects the mindset that Khosla Ventures and other firms across the space have. Their key goal is to manage costs,” Madan said. “Our mindset is not to erase doctors. Our mindset is to work with the doctor, with the nurse, make their job more efficient.”